EMPORIUM booked their place into the final of the Men’s Super League following a thrilling win over UCC Demons at the Mardyke Arena on Sunday.
Although not playing their best basketball in the first half they edged the second half by executing key baskets at crucial times when Demons made elementary mistakes.
The Ballincollig side will now head to Dublin on Saturday for their first Super League final against National Cup champions University of Galway Maree in a game that should light up basketball headquarters.
Plenty of heroes for Ballincollig but their professionals Jose Jimenez Gonzalez and American John Dawson certainly came to play Demons were quickest from the blocks going into a five-point lead before Ballincollig immediately responded with consecutive baskets.
The home side looked confident in the early exchanges and midway through the quarter they surged into a 17-9 lead following a Tala Fam three-pointer.
The one problem Demons were having was their laziness in defence as they allowed their opponents score at will that, which saw the lead reduced to 19-17.
In the closing minutes of the quarter, both sides began missing easy scoring opportunities but a late Nwagboso basket levelled the game at 23 points each entering the second period.
On the restart, both teams share baskets in the opening possessions with the Ballincollig player-coach Ciaran O’Sullivan nailing a long-range three-pointer that edged his side into a two-point lead.
The home side gradually began playing smarter and with Kyle Hosford driving them on they soon restored a two-point lead in the 14th minute.
Hosford was key for Demons as his moves to the hoop posed Ballincollig problems and his work in defence gave confidence to his teammates. A big problem, was the hosts' inability to punish Ballincollig as they consistently turned the ball over when they had the opportunity to take control.
Ballincollig were not playing to their usual standard but they were still hanging in mainly down to Demons sloppy defending and turnovers in this period.
In the closing minutes, Ballincollig got a little momentum and they certainly looked the happier of the teams going at the break despite trailing by the minimum, 47-46.
Looking at the first-half statistics both teams will be a little annoyed as they made basic errors but it was still all to play for with the capacity attendance waiting in earnest for the game to explode.
On the restart, some more poor Demons defence allowed Jimenez edge Ballincollig ahead by the minimum. There is little doubt some of the defending by Nwagbosa was well below the standard required and in the opening five minutes Demons looked to have lost the plot at both ends of the court.
Scoring suddenly dried up for Demons as they went five points behind before Fam went coast to coast with a basket and bonus. The closing minutes of this period saw Ballincollig punish Demons' comedy of errors with some slick shooting and the pressure was certainly on the home side as they trailed 69-63.
Nwagboso got Demons up and running in their opening possession in the fourth quarter and the lead was reduced to the minimum but once they went into a total meltdown as Ballincollig exposed them to race into an eight-point lead with five minutes remaining.
A time-out was called by Demons and James Hannigan responded with a three-pointer only for Dawson to reply from beyond the arc. Demons captain Kyle Hosford then got punished with a silly technical foul that saw him leave the court with 2.30 remaining.
In the closing minutes, Demons did throw the kitchen sink at their opponents but it made little difference as their inability to punish Ballincollig in the first half came back to haunt them.
In the end, it wasn’t to be for Demons as Ballincollig’s three-two zone broke their hearts in the second half as they failed to find the space for the key shots they needed.
MJ Randolph 21, J Hannigan 18, T Fam 13.
J Jimenez-Gonzalez 27, J Dawson 21, K Cairns 10.
J Hannigan, S Carney MJ Randolph, K Hosford, S Hannigan, D Lehane, T Fam, C Cuff, C Looney, K Nwagboso, S Manojovic, M McCarthy, S Kearney.
C O’Sullivan, R O’Sullivan, A O’Sullivan, K Cairns, D Corkery, J Dawson, S O’Flynn, P Cami Gallera, C Blount, L O’Sullivan, J Cotter, J Jimenez Gonzalez.
E Perry (Dublin), M Landos (Portlaoise), A Immers (Dublin).